More action needed to avoid Covid-19 homeless spike

London boroughs have warned that additional measures must be swiftly implemented to tackle housing insecurity during the coronavirus emergency.

The capital currently faces both the highest number of coronavirus cases and the worst homelessness crisis in the country, accounting for two-thirds of homelessness in England. Figures show that more than 57,000 London households – including 88,000 children – live in temporary accommodation.

Boroughs have welcomed the government’s commitment to suspend evictions , which will ensure that no renter in social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home for at least a three-month period. However, London Councils has said that more must be done to support those currently without a home and to avoid a spike in homelessness resulting from the pandemic’s economic impact.

The cross-party group also highlights the difficulty rough sleepers and others without a permanent home face in following self-isolation guidance, with a severe shortage of facilities and accommodation in the capital.

They are calling for ministers to: provide a rent guarantee for all residents losing jobs and income (including those on zero-hours contracts) due to Covid-19, which enables rent to be paid to councils and housing associations; raise Local Housing Allowance entitlements to help the 200,000 housing benefit claimants living in London’s private rented sector maintain their tenancies; remove the five-week wait for new claimants to start receiving Universal Credit; increase council budgets for Local Welfare Assistance and Discretionary Housing Payments to boost crisis support for Londoners facing financial hardship; and deliver further public health guidance for dealing with coronavirus in rough sleeping services – for example, supporting service users who exhibit symptoms.

Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for Housing & Planning, said: “This is an emergency situation that requires a bold and decisive response. Boroughs are working flat out to help our residents, including homeless Londoners, but we need further action at a national level.

“Although the government’s commitment to ending evictions is a good first step, much more needs to be done to address London’s chronic housing insecurity. Boroughs are concerned that a temporary eviction ban may simply store up pressures that later lead to a spike in homelessness, unless the welfare system is used to stabilise household finances and deliver immediate support for those struggling with housing costs. High rates of homelessness in the capital also risk undermining London’s public health response to coronavirus. We urgently need more guidance and resources for rough sleepers and others who don’t have anywhere to self-isolate.”